On the morning of January 20, I took the 7:44 Surfliner out of the Irvine Amtrak Station to Santa Barbara. Awaiting me at the Santa Barbara station was the rest of the BICYCLIST team, joining me in the seaside town.  The BICYCLIST team was in town to cover the finish of the Coast Ride, and I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to test an extended ride on the Pedego Stretch. The Stretch is an aluminum cargo bike, built like a tank and capable of hauling up to 400 pounds. Weighing in at 85 pounds, the Stretch still manages hills with its 7-speed drivetrain, but by itself is not ideal for long distance. With the addition of the 500-watt electronic assist motor, the cruiser-feeling bike turns into a touring machine.

I enjoyed the Pedego Stretch as a cargo hauler, photo bike, and support vehicle, but I was curious to test its touring capabilities. In the early dawn, I had packed my photo gear bag (3 camera bodies, large lenses, and tripods ~18 lbs), pannier with a change of clothes and food, and most importantly, extra batteries that we picked up from Pedego in Irvine, and rode to the Amtrak station. Stowing the bike on the train was a little harder than I had expected (due to its weight), but otherwise, I had a smooth ride up the coast. When the train arrived in Santa Barbara, I discovered what the Coast Riders had been battling for days: rain.

Capturing the riders was the best part of my trip. Through their dried-mud covered faces and expressions of concentration from maneuvering the slick roads, they still managed to crack a few smiles when they saw my camera. A thousand frames later, our task was complete. I packed up my things while the rest of the crew prepared to continue on an unrelated journey northward.

Heading southward along the coast, I enjoyed the sunset over the Pacific on my right. My equipment was easily secured with bungee cords on the bike’s frame-rack which is configurable in different positions depending on the cargo. Having batteries packed on each side, the bike rode heavy, but maintained its bearings well. The Stretch is Pedego’s largest bike and one battery lasts no more than 50 miles, so I made sure to pack two extra for the 150-mile ride home. The sun slowly set behind the clouds and the light lasted just long enough to get me to the spot we picked out to photograph the Latigo Canyon Climb. The melodic whirring of the motor and wet sound of large rolling tires hypnotized me through the dark hours along Highway 1 (PCH) with the built-in light system filling in when street lights failed.

After a solid eight hours in the saddle, and three drained batteries later, I arrived home. The satisfaction of finishing was different from what I felt after my usual bike ride. I marveled at the possibilities afforded by such a simple machine. Here was a bike that could be ridden by any person, with or without a driver’s license, and accomplish so much without the burden of a car. I plugged in one of the batteries to recharge it overnight and lugged the camera gear back to the house. When I sunk into bed after my day’s adventure, I wondered: What else could be done without a car? (Pedego Stretch. 85 lbs. $3,500) Locate a test ride at pedego.com